How to inspect a used tractor before purchase

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You’ve been scouring the classifieds and auction sections of the Farm and Dairy and you think you’ve found a good deal on a tractor. It’s time to take a closer look.

Jason Hartschuh, ag and natural resources extension agent in Crawford County, Ohio, offered these tips for inspecting a used tractor during a talk at the 2017 Farm Science Review.

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1Visual
Shiny paint looks nice but can also hide the tractor’s history. Take a closer look. Lots of dents could mean the previous owner did not take care of the tractor. Check for wear on the drawbar and three-point hitch and check controls for linkage wear. Inspect the frame and axles for any signs of repair welds.

Look for caked dirt around fittings or joints, which could be a sign of a leak, and check the front and rear engine transmission seals. If filters look old, it may be a sign of how long the tractor has been sitting. Check the oil level and quality on the dipstick; look for any creaminess or signs of water in the oil.

2Start it up
Once the tractor fires up, check for blue, white or continuous black smoke. The smoke should clear quickly unless the tractor is under load. Listen for any taps in the engine. Open the radiator to look for bubbles; open the engine fill port to observe for gases, and check for film in the oil fill port. Check all other fluids and look for foam or gases.

3Test drive
You’ll need to take the tractor for a short drive to test the brakes, gears and steering. Stand on the brakes to check for clutch slippage. Check each gear for slippage or gear chatter. Check the steering for wear and make sure tires are going the right direction.

Cycle each hydraulic remote for leaks and test the PTO system. Turn on all lights and inspect them. If the tractor has heat and air conditioning, test both to make sure they are working properly — air conditioning is often a problem and expensive.

4The home inspection
Once you’ve decided to make the purchase, it doesn’t hurt to do a more thorough inspection. Change all fluids and filters, and grease all fittings and bearings. Remove the oil pan, feel the cylinder, check rod bearings and check the pan for metal flakes or sludge. Open the transmission inspection cover, inspect gears, look for chips and feel around. Conduct a pressure test on the hydraulics system.

Source: Selecting a new or used tractor for a small farm, Jason Hartschuh, Farm Science Review, Small Farms Center.

Next week: Final considerations for purchasing new or used tractors.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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