Tractor Trouble: Watch the Electrical System

A long time ago, someone, probably my dad, told me that “80% of all carburetion problem are really electrical.” In other words, your engine doesn’t run, and you suspect a fuel or carburetor problem, when all the time it was an ignition problem.

This happened to me over the last week, when my tractor (a Ford 640) would not start. I wasn’t the one operating it, and the issue became confused because he didn’t use the fuel shut-off, so we really did have a carburetion problem — the carburetor was flooded.

I messed around with various stupid and irrelevant actions until I finally woke up and brought a voltmeter into play. I discovered that the ignition fuse had voltage at both ends, but the fuse HOLDER had no voltage at the far end. It had corroded and wasn’t making a good connection. I burnished this up a bit, the voltage magically appeared, and the tractor started right up.

This, by the way, is what you get when you use inferior parts. When I converted the tractor from 6V to 12V operation, I added an el cheapo fuse block. I should have bought a marine-quality one. Never again!

Another take-away is that, if you allow things to go downhill, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. I was down to one working headlamp, and then zero. With working headlights, I can use the lights as an impromptu voltmeter, because the way things are wired, the ignition is getting voltage if the lights are. But with both of them burned out, I had to go find my multimeter. Life is simpler if only one thing is broken at a time!

Nevertheless, I designed a T-shirt this morning, commemorating old iron, which you can see below. After all, my tractor is older than I am!


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Robert Plamondon
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

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