Diesel tractors and the cold

November 22, 2014

18 February, 2015

For the first time the TAFE has had its troubles with freeze-ups this winter. The addition of a diesel additive has improved starting to the point that it will light up unaided as long as it’s above 0 degrees F. As long as the electricals agree. I finally tightened a push-on connector to the solenoid as it tended to vibrate off, after starting the engine.

Sunday morning this trick no longer worked. Eventually it lit up while I was trying to figure out how to bypass the gearshift safety interlink, so I don’t know if it’s a broken wire to the solenoid, or an interlink switch gone.

20 November, 2014

While conditions local to the Newboro/Portland area have proven much less extreme than those to the south of Lake Erie, we have had more than our share of wind over the last three days, and today required that the mothballed snow removal equipment get to work.

For the first time in memory the 35 hp TAFE loader tractor froze a fuel line. At first it lit up in the best diesel tradition, but then starved for fuel and quit. Ulp.

Next on the depth chart was the Kubota whose normal role is mowing lawns. When I tried to hitch it to the snow blower, the abandoned implement was frozen so solidly into the ground that the little tractor couldn’t move it. I had to whack it with the old Massey Ferguson 35, which promptly decided it didn’t want to go any further in either direction because of a lack of hydraulic fluid and a large blade on the back.

The little Kubota dragged its belly out the lane and back again willingly enough, but cars don’t usually have 12″ ground clearance. With a sneering look at the idle TAFE with its cozy cabin, I took a deep breath, hooked a logging chain to the Kubota and yanked the now-loosened 5′ snowblower out of the tines of the Massey’s loader and around to where I could hitch it up. The wind kept dislodging my hat to the point that I squeezed into a snowmobile helmet I found in the shop.

Much fussing ensued before the blower was properly installed on the little tractor. What I had thought was a seized pto shaft turned out to be a telescoping shaft too long for its job. Shortening it by 1 1/2″ did the trick, but I had pounded on the thing in the blowing snow for about an hour before this insight came along.

Because it wasn’t all that cold outside, I was able to complete the blow-out of the driveway and related parking areas without a change of clothes, though by that point I was soaking wet. The 21 hp Kubota could handle the heavy drifts in low range if I eased off on the go-pedal when the engine began to labour. Without the three suitcase weights on the front it wouldn’t have had much steering control, though.

As I said the temperature was rising, so I tried the TAFE before retiring for a shower. It lit up a bit reluctantly but settled down once it had coughed that drop of water through its injectors. Next time I’ll park it out of the wind so I can have fun playing with the TAFE’s loader while sheltered within its cabin, instead of ducking a deluge of damp snow.

November 21, 2014

My neighbour Peter Myers provided an anti-gelling compound for the fuel because the TAFE repeated its trick of starting up, running for a short while, accelerating and then dying. This conditioner stresses on the label that it’s not for regular use, so I need to find something else, as well.

Dealer Paul Carson told me that an additive is necessary nowadays, as diesel is of much lower quality than it was even two years ago. He agreed to order new canister filters for the TAFE’s fuel supply.

I have never touched the diesel part of the tractor because I had little idea of how it worked, and my only experience with injector pumps occurred on a bitterly cold morning several years ago when I ran the Massey Ferguson 35 out of fuel while straddling Young’s Hill Road. Peter’s comment when I sought his help to restart the engine: “That’s an awful job! You … only … do …that … once!”

From that session I learned to keep the tanks full and pray the filters didn’t plug, because bleeding the system requires two men with frozen hands and feet, a portable generator, and a large tractor to chain-start the MF when everything else fails. Now that I think of it, add a new starter to the bill. It seems Lucas starters run on smoke, because when I let the smoke out of that one, it wouldn’t work any more. The rebuild guy in Smiths Falls tossed the Lucas into his dumpster and handed me a much cheaper Delco which has worked fine ever since.

After an hour with the block heater and the anti-gelling compound, the TAFE lit right up, but died again before I could get it into the heated garage.
I tried to tow it to where I could drag it in with the 12v winch I once bolted to the garage floor. The little Bolens scratched away at the frozen ground until it got the behemoth to move, but then it rolled off course and stopped on top of the chain. I hadn’t realized that a power steering tractor not only won’t follow a tow vehicle, you can’t steer the thing at all without the engine.

In desperation I tried the starter again. Perversely, it lit up and idled as if it had no memory of its earlier tantrum. Several breathless seconds passed before the tractor sat in the garage, beside the box stove. Then, of course, it ran perfectly. Perhaps the water has worked its way through the system, but I won’t trust the TAFE until the new filters are installed and the system bled.

It’s been a reliable workhorse for four years, so I won’t call it an evil beast yet…

UPDATE: 2 December

After I changed the fuel filters on the TAFE it started up well and continued to run as expected. The job wasn’t all that bad technically. I’ll still wait until it starts on a cold morning with a heavy snowfall before I pronounce the TAFE redeemed.

UPDATE:  12 January, 2017

So far, so good.  No more problems with the fuel system in cold weather.  I just keep the additive in the fuel.

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