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Making an old tractor new (ish)

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tcmtech

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A recent bigger project I picked up last week was another mid-larger size tractor. A late 70's Massey Ferguson 1155 for $3000.
One of these, if you don't know what that model looks like. http://www.tractordata.com/farm-tractors/000/8/3/833-massey-ferguson-1155.html
~155 HP 12 speed multi range transmission and the ever so cool Perkins 540 ci V8 diesel! :cool:

For the most part solid but as with any 40 year old machine owned by farmers it has a bunch of small stuff that's just worn out or aged to death or for me justifiably worth doing modern updates to.

Now as for the price well that's sort of interesting midwest market oddity and due to that this is now the fourth tractor in this size range we have picked up. The thing is they are not worth much for two reasons. One is they are now too old and too small for the modern big farmers (If its more than 5 - 10 years old and not 300 - 400+ HP its too old and too small) and the other is they are seen by most as too big for the little hobby guys, and I have to admit for the work we do with them they are about double the machine capacity we need as well but oddly due to the high demand for the smaller machines those 60 - 80 HP machines easily bring 2 - 3X the price these low-ish ~150 - 200 HP ones do even if beat to death.

The nice part about these bigger than needed machines is, unlike the old farmer mentality I grew up with around where you figure out exactly what size tractor you need then buy one that 80% of that capacity, and then run it in flat out overload until it's dead because it saved you 10% on the purchase price (but costs 50% more in repairs in the long run than the bigger tractor would have for the same work done), going the other way has proved to be far far cheaper on the long term.

Anyway. As I started with, It's solid but needs a good updating all the way around. To start the lights are poor. fair for 1970's machines but compared to today's tractors that have the full stadium lighting packages its pretty dim. So for that the 6 ~35 watt standard bulb lighting system is getting upgraded to an eight 55 - 65 watt halogen field flood (extra wide flood pattern compared to automotive floodlight) system.

Now to do that it of course does not have the needed alternator capacity to keep up so the old and tired 63 amp system (0 amps until half throttle and maybe 30 at full now because the alternators half cooked) it getting a brand new 140+ amp commercial unit and a total primary current handling side electrical system upgrade.

But to get to there, the junk batteries had to be replaced (2 ~120Ah group 31 heavy duty commercial rated) and the rotten old 2/0 and 2 ga and who-knows-what chewed up braided ones (I really hate what old farmers do to battery cables to make things half way start most of the time rather than fix it right.) had to be replaced.

So in my typical update and overkill fashion I went with all brand new 4/0 fine strand commercial cable, that just because I had it, it also got run inside heavy silicone impregnated kevlar fiber sleeving too. They look pretty indestructible cool now but they are miserable to work with due to the size and less than user friendly flexibility the sleeving added. (You could probably tow the actual tractor with a single cable and not hurt it, They are that robustly made!) :D

Beyond that, and given the much larger lighting loads plus getting updated to the bigger alternator, all of the original 8 ga charging circuit wiring is being upgraded to 2ga. Also in relation to that, being orgionaly the engine used a either assist for cold starting that cold start system being redesigned to use a custom built high output multi glow coil intake air preheater that consists of four 50 amp continuous duty rated commercial glow coils. :woot:

One in each intake manifold and one above each of those in the intake tubing. Two would be fine but since I ended up with something like 100 of them some years ago, hey,why not overkill there too?

I've done that conversion on two of the other three big tractors now and it works super to the point that they can start down to ~0F (if they have to) without needing to be plugged in. :cool:

So far since I got the tractor home I came up with a list of about 20 smaller things that needed fixing or improving on and I now have about 1/3 of them done and parts for most of the rest coming.. (Spent ~$1000 up to today and I still have not yet started the tractor since I got it home a week ago.) :(
 
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tcmtech

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Beyond the primary side charging system and glow coil system wiring updates that I got about halfway installed today, I also got most of the original exhaust system components done as well.

One of the riser pipes for the exhaust was rusted out, and the other side not far behind it, so I took that assy to town and had all new tubing custom bent and flared at my local muffler shop.

Originally MF used od sized 2 3/4" thin wall tube for the exhaust but since the two pipes, if ordered through the local dealer ,would have set me back some $200+ so I had them remade out of more common 3" heavy truck pipe. (total cost $33) :woot:

Also being the original muffler was rusted to junk I checked around for a new one of those. OEM was ~$1000! :arghh:
Fortunately one of the other farm equipment dealers has a good selection of heavy commercial mufflers to pick from so they set me up with a new one for $155. (Actually cross referenced to being perfect fit but a better designed type of muffler than the OEM one too.) :cool:

Yesterday a whole interior rebuild kit got ordered so that includes all new ceiling, side panel and floor upholstery. (friggin farmers are like goats when it comes to how they treat tractor interiors. ) :(
I also got new AC system lines ordered as well so when I go to put everything on top of the engine back together the two bad AC line sets will be fixed for next summer.

Once the new interior comes in and the whole cab gets torn apart to clean out the HVAC ducting and add the new lighting wiring, I am also pulling wiring in for a four channel sound system to get rid of the 1 speaker AM radio that doesn't work.

I'm thinking dual channel low profile sound bar for the front that will hang just under the headliner and out of the line of site for the front and either a pair of 5 1/2" or 6" x 9"'s for the rear speakers plus one of my spare Pioneer head units to make them all go nice and loud! :woot: :woot:

Also with the updated wring that goes in for the added lighting and sound system stuff I am going to redesign the whole crappy power handling and protection circuits to get rid of the pair of 15 and 20 amp fuses (really, that's all that protects the whole tractor) and go with a multi push button circuit breaker system so that if any lights, or anything else, shorts out it doesn't take everything with it.

Also with the bigger alternator and far heavier primary wiring the limited capacity amp meter is going to be switched out with a voltmeter. ;)
 
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tcmtech

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Other odd glitches on the list are the three point does not work right. It will go up but it wont go down unless the engine is off. That suggests that either the hydraulic valve that controls it is stuck, (pretty common) or the linkages that operates it needs adjusting (also very common) or the linkages or control shaft broke off (also high on the list for those models).

Likely not a big and difficult fix but another one of those that's going to eat up a most of good day due to the amount of stuff that has to come apart to get into the valves that are buried in the transmission top under the cab. The cab floor comes out to get to the transmission top service cover but still, it's listed as a time eater to do what could be 15 minute repair/adjustment once everything else is out of the way.:(

On other notes. The tractor has 4050 hours on it which is actually low for its age. I did check the air filters and the date stamp for the inner one ws 1978 and the outer from the late 80's. The guy who owned it quit farming some 20 years ago so I suspect that's why they are as old as they are and the tractor has that aged low use dirty look to it.

Oil and oil filters have been changed as with the fuel filters that were probably last done in the 80's as well given it takes a long time for items like that to surface rust to the point they got to.

Also and oddly, these models came with air conditioning but no factory cab heater system. The heater was a rare option, and I can get the parts for around $1200 , but for that I am thinking I can take some measurements while I have the roof off to clean all the air ducting out and add the lighting and sound system wires,and retrofit a newer model heater core in that costs around $200 or less.

Initially I was going to add a generic stand alone cab heater that would have sat in the front right cab corner on the floor (huge cabs on those old tractors) but at near $200 for one of those I might as well go ahead and make the factory air handling system make heat too. ;)

Beyond all of that it needs a good deep cleaning bath from top to bottom and inside and out being I am pretty sure the thing hasn't been washed in years. Most of the heavy oil and grease based grime has turned to asphalt which, takes a decade or more to happen, and most everywhere that doesn't have grime has that old petrified dust and field chaff accumulations that also take years to get that way.

Another week of regular work and I might just have the old machine picture worthy. :p
 
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ClydeCrashKop

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I'm thinking dual channel low profile sound bar for the front that will hang just under the headliner and out of the line of site for the front and either a pair of 5 1/2" or 6" x 9"'s for the rear speakers plus one of my spare Pioneer head units to make them all go nice and loud!
What came to mind is a rural version of "Pimp My Ride" :D

I replaced the battery cables on a 31' Bertram boat with fine strand 00 welding cable thinking it was high quality and would flex around corners well. Where it went under the walkway between the engines, it was a foot above the bilge water and probably got splashed often. I guess there were pinholes in the insulation and salt water got inside. A few years later, there were cocoons growing in that cable, bulging the insulation and green slime coming out where that fine wire had dissolved completely.
 
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tcmtech

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What came to mind is a rural version of "Pimp My Ride" :D
It is sort of what I do with anything I get ahold of. It ain't mine unless it been taken apart and remade to be above and beyond what its creator made it to be. :p

If a guy spends the first 2/3's of his life operating from old underpowered beat up worn out machinery when he gets the privilege of having anything that can be more he tends to wants take that opportunity! ;)
 
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tcmtech

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More work on the old tractor today.

The remaining primary power wiring around the engine is in and the old alternator plus its mounting bracket are out so I can start redesigning that to fit the new larger alternator in. I also found a bad bearing in the fan belt tensioner while taking all that apart so that added a unexpected delay in what I had planned to get done today.

Also the foam pads that seal up around the AC condenser and hydraulics intercooler, that sit in front of the radiator and help direct air flow through them, are beyond salvage so that's going to need a redesign as well.

I can cheat the hydraulic intercooler seal given it sits so close the radiator but the AC condenser is too far out in front so for that I am thinking that since I have more than enough alternator capacity to work with I might just add a 12" electric fan on the AC condenser to solve its air flow issue without having to restrict air flow to anything else. I will just have to pull a 10 ga line up to the front and add a heavy duty relay and 30 amp circuit breaker someplace so that it turns on whenever the AC compressor cycles and it will be good to go.

As for a humorous and typical modern day service center conversation while I was in town I asked the local dealer that carries the part for this old thing if they had a service tech who might know anything about the three point issues I have.

Sure do!, They said. So am figuring they have an older guy who worked on these things 20 - 30 years ago.

Nope, From out of the back comes a guy that's younger than the tractor and his first question is what does the computer codes read. Ya, I know how this conversation going to go. Nowhere. I know more about this tractor than he does already. :rolleyes: :(

It ended with him wanting to put me on their list of possible sources others with old machines can talk to since they don't have a clue how to fix anything that can't be plugged into a computer. Normal day in my life. :facepalm::p
 

tcmtech

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Some pictures of the work in progress. The hood is off so I can do all the wiring updates for the primary power systems and glow coil system along with fix the AC compressor lines and rebuild the exhaust system plus other smaller things.

IMG_20180128_164056.jpg IMG_20180128_164159.jpg IMG_20180128_164146.jpg
 
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tcmtech

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The glow coils as installed.
IMG_20180128_164119.jpg
IMG_20180128_164106.jpg
 

tcmtech

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What one looks like.

They are a ~12 ga either a Tungsten alloy or Nickel Chrome alloy coil that will run at a dull white glow on 12 volts and typically draw around 50 amps. I have used them as load banks for drawing down batteries to find their estimated AH capacity and they can run continuously at a dull white glow for hours without damage.
IMG_20180128_164749.jpg
IMG_20180128_164930.jpg
 

tcmtech

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The 4/0 super battery cables in their sheaths as installed on the starter.

That's a 14 ga wire hanging in front of them.
IMG_20180128_164129.jpg
 

Mickster

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Looking at the first of the pics you put up, it seems like you have a good sized workshop kind of building in the background, with a stove pipe sticking out of the roof?
I'm guessing that it will be stocked full of all the toys to carry out essential repairs, farming workshops usually have to cater for almost anything don't they?
Any pics of your setup inside?
I'll bet you have either a Jim Williams style bench, or something clean like an operating table, no in-betweens...

EDIT: What's the extended axle poking out of the right rear hub used for?
 

tcmtech

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Looking at the first of the pics you put up, it seems like you have a good sized workshop kind of building in the background, with a stove pipe sticking out of the roof?
I'm guessing that it will be stocked full of all the toys to carry out essential repairs, farming workshops usually have to cater for almost anything don't they?
Any pics of your setup inside?
I'll bet you have either a Jim Williams style bench, or something clean like an operating table, no in-betweens...
Actually that's my small heated workshed (electronics and misc small projects work space/man cave) that's down by the old house I am still living in. It's a old granary I picked up three summers ago. It's 14' x 20' and built of out of mostly recycled redwood and oak that came from some other building which puts its likely age at over 100 years now. It's all rough cut 2" x 6" with 1" thick tongue and groove redwood siding and 1/2" plywood inside so it's built like a fortress!

My main shop is 32' x 64' with 14' ceiling up by where the new house is going but is unfinished and thus unheatable otherwise the tractor would be in there at this point.

More info on the small workshed found at the end of this thread, https://www.electro-tech-online.com/threads/wind-generators-pros-cons.149508/page-2


EDIT: What's the extended axle poking out of the right rear hub used for?
These tractors could run with dual wheels on the back. It has adjustable rims so as it sits one wheel is offset all the way in on the rim and the other side all the way out being the previous owner used it on a rock picker that needed the rims offset for some reason.

Once I get everything done around the engine and get it running again all I need to do adjust the rims is is loosen some bolts on each rim and then ride the brake for one side while slowly going forward or backward to adjust the rims in or out. Rather a clever design for doing fast tire spacing width adjustments for various row crop work really. :cool:

IMG_20180128_164214.jpg
 

tcmtech

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Yea, its good to have a life long buddy who owns a big salvage yard! I haven't sent him a bill in several years now!

I just show up for service calls with my pickup or flatbed truck and 20' flatbed trailer and I get whatever I can haul home with them for that trips payment! :cool:
 

tcmtech

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More work done today. The primary wiring is in and the glow coils work plus two new lights for the lower front of the cab are in place and the new AC lines on the compressor are in as well.

The dual 4/0 battery cable and new batteries made a huge difference in engine cranking speed. The 540 CI V8 diesel spins over like a small car engine now even though it was 30F when I finally got everything together to start it! :cool:

Next is the alternator and the wiring that will go to the fan for the AC condenser. Once that done the hood can go on and the new exhaust system pipes can be cut to length and welded in place.

A bit here and a bit there and someday this will be a better than new tractor that just looks like a old tractor.

Oh yea, and a 540 cI V8 diesel with no exhaust system is as wicked sounding as you would imagine. :eek:


Pretty much sounds like what that guy has there. :D
 
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crutschow

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These tractors could run with dual wheels on the back.
I would think that wold be somewhat common as it would appear those wheels are somewhat small to deliver that much power to the ground without significant slippage.
My dad's old Cockshutt 40 back in the 50's (in Wisconsin) had wheels nearly that big.
And with that he powered and pulled a Gehl forage chopper plus a forage wagon up and down some pretty good hills (not very fast, of course).
 

tcmtech

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I would think that wold be somewhat common as it would appear those wheels are somewhat small to deliver that much power to the ground without significant slippage.
It depends on a bunch of factors. For many farming applications soil compaction is a bigger problem more than traction itself. Some crops are fussy about having the soil compacted close to them due ot how it affects their root development.

It's why there has been such a huge move to the track type tractors over the last decade or so. They can both put a lot of power to the ground with minimal slippage, in order to use as large of implements as they can, while also leaving as shallow of footprint in return for it.

In the heyday of these tractors they did their best to find the best working balance of things by adding extra sets of wide profile tires to get their weight spread out as much as possible when it was necessary which for non row crop applications I have seen people put triples on these things! It worked well in certain applications but it was hell on the rear axle systems for it.

Now on the other end of things and depending on the work being done putting as much weight as possible on as the ground can support is necessary. Around here we have what is most often classified as glacial loam soil which depending on moisture content can be like a slime covered mattress too as hard as sandstone or any point in between.

For anyone who cares to see the wild world of tractor tires and their ground interface characteristics, here's just a few of countless links to such topics.

https://extension2.missouri.edu/g1235

https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6854&context=gradschool_disstheses

https://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/soils/tillage/tires-traction-and-compaction/

https://grdc.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/234528/15grdcsm15weightbalancetyres.pdf.pdf

http://www.cornandsoybeandigest.com/equipment/tires-or-tracks-what-s-best-way-avoid-soil-compaction
 

tcmtech

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+2 F outside and it did a cold start without major difficulty so the overkill glow coil system does exactly what I need it to do! It's can obviously pass the dead cold 0 F start if it had to test and thusly is now winter ready engine wise! :cool:

I'm impressed considering these were never well known for being good cold weather starting engines. :D
 

GromTag

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Recall a plow tractor with those axles types, had a rubber hose with 2 large hose clamps on the outer ends of each. Wondering on how far the wheel would be permitted to travel along the axle shaft.

That for a 70's model is in better shape than the ones residing locally here.

These nearby are left setting where ever they stop running. Only know of 1 left that has not disappeared. I think it's a NAA Jubilee or a smaller variant. Wild Strawberries and saw briars have consumed it whole. I think it's still there.
 

tcmtech

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Recall a plow tractor with those axles types, had a rubber hose with 2 large hose clamps on the outer ends of each. Wondering on how far the wheel would be permitted to travel along the axle shaft.
Depending on the tire width and crop row spacing sometime they would be set all the way out. The downside was that running at high power loads with the wheels set that far out was very hard otne axles and bearing sets they ran on and shearing a whole axle shaft off was pretty common. Still is. I see new tractors that broke axles of at least once a year sitting in fields or local Ag shops around here.

That for a 70's model is in better shape than the ones residing locally here.
Its looks are pretty common in these parts for the ones that remain. Most of them that were worn out have long since been scrapped and what's left are like this one where they got parked and left untouched for years due to their owners either having gotten a better tractor these old ones becoming the largely unused spares or having went out of farming or something else that justified keeping the tractor but not using it very much.

So far, of the now four larger units like this one we have all of them seem to have been parked for a long time due to what is for me are not major issues but for many who have no mechanical skills and a very limited amount of ability to work on larger machinery would have been simply to the equivalent cost involved of having a shop work on them.

Around here a shop that works on this stuff gets the better part of $100 an hour and they would likely only use OEM parts even if the cost 5 - 10X what aftermarket costs which by those rough numbers the work I am doing likely would have come with at $6000+ bill which doesn't cost justify getting a 40 year old tractor up to date and functional again.:(

But for me throwing $1000 or so plus 20 - 30 hours of my winter free time at it a hour or two here and there as the weather permits is well worth it for what I will have when I am done. ;)
 
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