Saturday, June 29, 2013

Working on the Ford 8N Tractor

Showing the old spark plugs
Finally, a Saturday off and nothing to do but work around the farm! Top of the list is the old Ford 8N tractor. I had been trying to charge the old battery in the farmhouse for the last two days to save some money. The charger said it was registering a charge but it wasn't enough to fire up the old Ford.

I headed into town to get the battery tested and buy some tractor parts: spark plugs x 4, Marvel Mystery Oil, Berryman B12 Chemtool carb cleaner, ethanol free gasoline, a gas can, and a funnel. After finding that my two local parts stores closed at noon in my nearby small town, I headed into the next bigger town to O'Reilly Auto Parts. They were more than helpful and super friendly. That's part of why I moved out here. I ended up buying a new 6v battery too.

I didn't know what size spark plugs the old Ford would take but the fellas at O'Reilly had a parts book which they used to look it up. I linked to it up above in case you need some someday. As my transactions concluded, they politely reminded me that they would be open until if they knew I'd be back.

I stopped back by the small town nearest the farm on the way home for gas. There's always young teenage girls working the register and I knew the time would come that I'd have to look like an idiot. Not knowing a thing about tractors, I first used the restroom while I tried to figure out how NOT to sound stupid. I approached the register and said "I need some tractor gas. That's pump 3, right?" I had noticed a farmer filling up his tractor at that pump a few days prior.  "Yes," the two country girls said with a smile. "I'll also need some regular gas for my jeep. That's pump 2, right?" Again they agreed. I left my credit card on the counter and scooted out the door.

Yeah, but at least I didn't ask for "tractor gas"...
"Whew, I made it out of there with my pride intact," I thought, as I walked out to fill up. First, I put the nozzle from pump 2 into the jeep and started filling her up. I took the newly bought gas can out of the passenger seat and walked over to pump 3. I noticed it said "Diesel" on the side of the pump. "Crap. I'm not supposed to be buying Diesel, am I?  Oh Lord, I'm gonna have to walk back in there and be stupid now..." was my internal dialogue. "But wait! They confirmed that the tractor gas was pump 3. This IS pump 3." So I just decided to take my chances. I filled up the five gallon can and went back inside to pay.

I casually walked back in feeling confident that my Justin boots and dirty Carhartt pants and shirt would make me blend in. I paid the bill and then it happened. I couldn't help myself. The last thing I wanted to do was put the wrong gas in the old Ford and mess it up just because I refused to ask a dumb question and look like an idiot. So I said "Pump 3 says Diesel on it. Is that the same as Ethanol Free gasoline...for tractors...?" Their smiles were even bigger this time. I could feel my face heating up like a little boy staring at a pretty lady. "It's tractor diesel," they said in what seemed like a restrained giggle.

I nodded as if I knew what THAT meant and headed for the door. Before I could put my hand on the door handle, one country girl said quickly "Hey..." and I turned to look at her. "Don't put that in your truck..." she said sheepishly. With my last speck of couth, I winked at her and said: "I have a lot to learn." I made it to the Jeep without tripping over anything and off I went.

Carb cleaner in a fuel additive form.
Back at the farm, I enjoyed every bit of working on the old Ford tractor. I slid in the new battery and hooked it up. I replaced all four spark plugs and added drops of Marvel oil into each cylinder. The oil filter had semi-clean oil and a decent level on the dipstick. The air filter was emptied out and replaced back into place with the thin jerry-rigged wire that had been used by her prior owner to secure it into place.

I put her in neutral and held my breath as I gave the starter a push. Rerrrr rerrrr rerrrr...nothing. Cranked over but no start. I figured out how to fill the glass gas bowl with gasoline and did that. Followed the gas line over to the other side of the engine into the carburetor. I removed the drain plug to find that no gas was coming out. I opened all idle screws and tried cranking her again. Nothing. So I removed the gas line on the carb side and nothing was coming out.

Knowing how awful gasoline tastes (don't ask), I knew I had to siphon it over. I did...and it came flowing. Blech! "Yep, still tastes like arse," I thought.  However, it was a small victory in my mind. I screwed it back to the carb and checked the drain plug. NOW I had gasoline draining. I tried cranking it over several times with several different combinations of choke, no choke, low accelerator, high accelerator but she just wouldn't start. By the time I was done, the brand new battery wouldn't crank. Dang. Defeated for today. Tomorrow, check the points in the distributor.

The good news is the cavalry is coming tomorrow. Both Uncle R and Uncle J are coming to the rescue. They both have 8N's at their houses and know a lot more than I do about these tractors. I'm sure they'll have the old Ford up and running in no time. I'll make sure to video it for you guys. Aunt D just text and said she was bringing hamburgers to grill outside. Sweet! I sure wish Wifey and the girls were here. They would be having a blast for sure. 

So that's it for today. I did learn some new rules though...

New Rules of the Farm

- swallow your pride and ask what you need to ask. The biggest mistake you can make is not doing the right thing because you were afraid to ask the right question. (Pretty girl, or no pretty girl...just ask already!)

- small town parts stores will close before you get there. The worse you need the part, the earlier they will close. Call ahead and check their store hours. Then, find out where the parts store is in the next bigger town and call them.

-it's a six-volt battery if it has three distilled water chambers in the middle of the battery. I don't know why that's just what they said. And the part that says CCA is Cold Crank Amps, which is relevant, for some reason...

-gasoline tastes like crap. Figure out how to siphon without your mouth...or expect to be tasting it for the next two days.

Back Home Report

It was Dollar Flip Flop day at Old Navy. The girls all went shopping for shoes and left happy, according to Wifey. They also picked up some free movie tickets from some church friends who were giving them away due to a scheduling conflict. They enjoyed the new Monster's Inc movie last week. I wonder what they'll see this time?

Happy feet!


  1. Seems odd that a auto parts store would close early on a sat. when everyone does their shopping on Sat. Oh well lesson learned. Pride is hard to swallow. I would say "I have just moved back home, its been awhile can you help me??" With a big smile. You can always tip the kids too. They would be more then wiling to help you every time.

  2. @Rob Good idea. I was told by a waiter once that "TIPS" stood for "To Insure Prompt Service." This "small town" is pretty small. I was told they had to close their zoo...because the chicken died.

  3. If you have to syphon a lot of gasoline, buy one of those hoses made for that with the little hand squeeze pump in the line. Those pretty girls at the parts counter could help you locate one.

  4. @DD Bwahahahahaha! I'm sure they'd be happy to.

  5. OJD,

    Sounds like you got a problem with the carb. I know what I'm about to say is heresy for all the engine guys, but get some starter fluid and maybe do a very, very small quick squirt where the air intake is.

    If you use too much starter fluid, you can do some serious engine damage so I would be very, very careful.

    Tractor gas or tractor fuel is almost all diesel nowadays. If you cant get ethanol free gasoline. Get a bottle of Stabil fuel stabilizer and follow the instructions on the bottle. I've been using it for years now without fail.

    tex texan

  6. I found that country folks are very kind to a city boy that just moved out there. Confession is good for the soul. I ask stupid questions fairly regularly, I have yet to be embarrassed. Sometimes I mention that I know about [insert profession here].

  7. You didn't put diesel in the tractor did you? I was a little confused by the way you described what you ended up purchasing. And my hubby said that it might be your points or coil. Good luck, we are enjoying following you in this new adventure!

  8. I can understand that you know the taste of gas but how do you know it's like arse?
    As with any problem - start with the easy and common fixes then isolate what the problem could be.
    Gas engines need fuel, spark and air - mostly in that order. Once you know you have fuel, then pull a spark plug wire and put it on a spare plug. Ground the plug against the engine block and turn the engine over. You should see a BRIGHT spark in the gap. If not, then it's electrical and you don't have to run down the battery doing no good to the battery or your efforts to start the tractor.

  9. Lead acid batteries are made up of cells in series. Each Lead Acid cell is (about) 2V so a 12V battery has 6 and a 6V battery has 3.
    In addition to rating a battery by Voltage the Cold Cranking Amps is a measurement of how much current a battery can supply all at once (such as is required for cranking an engine) and the Amp-hours (Ah) is a measurement of how long a battery can provide current for (Amp hours is less relevant for a vehicle battery but becomes more important for something like an off-grid battery system).
    Typically you will have one top up port per cell on a battery (so a 6V batter is 3 cells of 2V each so 3 top up points, one for each cell. Although occasionally I've a battery where one top up point services a pair of cells).

  10. One of the perks of living in a small town, is that everyone is willing to DO swallow your pride, and feel free to ask anyone your questions...I've found that folks are more than willing to help out...local hardware/parts stores welcome questions...and yard saling is a great way to get information and stories...

  11. Whew!! Thank goodness that you didn't put diesel in the 8N!! Most older smaller tractors like the 8N use gas not diesel.

    BTW we had the 6V in our 8N for years the it was a pain with the batteries. Once we converted it over to 12v it works like a champ. Only thing is that you'd have to put in a new starter, etc to match up with the 12v. Plus if you have lights wired for 6v you'd have to change the wiring and lights for 12. It cost us about $120-$150 if I remember correctly, labor was done by my younger son so the labor was free for us. It might not be on your priorty list now but if you keep the 8N you might want to think about it for a future project.

    Good luck on your homestead!!

  12. if it has spark plugs it can't use diesel

  13. Err, that's not necessarily true. Older International engines (certain models) started on gas then were switched over to diesel, igniting on compression. So they had a carb, ignition system & injectors, along with two fuel tanks.

    Some engines - not the 8n - were started with a gasoline pony motor attached to the main engine, which then ran on diesel - like a vintage D6 bulldozer

  14. This is not a comment but a question. I am also having trouble starting an 8n. When the engine fires once the starter disengages before it starts. one guy told me I needed a new starter drive, another guy told me it was the starter itself, while another who has 2 8ns said when he had this same trouble it was the carb. Do any of you guys have any ideas?

  15. I know this is an old post but:
    As a fellow Jeep lover, (I have accumulated three of them), a tip when having to siphon gas: Wrap the hose with a rag and insert the hose into the tank you are drawing from and use the rag to make a somewhat air tight seal around the hose at the tank. At the receiving end, blow into the hose, which will pressurize the tank & the gas will quickly start siphoning with enough time to place the hose into the gas can and avoiding sucking any gas into your mouth. Those cheap siphon pump hoses they sell are invariably either too short, have a leak & don't work, or get hard and die. A 6' length of vinyl hose lets you see it coming & is cheap.


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