How long do tractors last?

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Rick Courtright

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Mar 10, 2002
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Hi,

I dunno a lot about tractors. We had an old M-F at the range that I could make go back and forth smoothing the clay target residue, but that's about it. To say that tractor suffered from neglect would be gross understatement. On a good note, the local hose shop loved to see my boss coming!

Looking forward to late Spring and early Summer entertainment sent me to see if the annual antique tractor show would be held this year after last year's COVID cancellation. This is a big event every year in Tulare, CA. Sadly, the show is cancelled again, which led me around the Interwebs to discussions of various tractors and their good and bad points and all kinds of things. The antique show will have every color of tractor made and most of the models, with a predominance of green and yellow. Some of the equipment is approaching 90-100 years old, and, of course, much of it is fully restored to show and doesn't work for a living any more.

But that raised another question: if a person were to go out and buy a new tractor along the lines of the popular J-D 4140 and put it to work--regular every day farm workload, proper maintenance and such--how long should it be a reliable piece of equipment? I know a handful of folks who've had old tractors going back to post WWII, and they work around the place with them to this day, but it's more like garden tractor work than farm work.

Just curious...

Rick C
 
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How long anything will last is simply relevant to how well it is maintained. I have two tractors. One is a Ford 8N and the other is a Massey Ferguson 202. Both tractors are well over 60 years old and run very well. They're not just toys, both of them get used for working my five acres and the dirt roads leading up to them. I take very good care of these tractors. If I had to do every thing by hand that these tractors have done for me, I would have worked myself to death years ago. Those tractors were built to last and they are doing just that. It may sound strange to you but every time I pull one of them in to park after doing some work with it, I give it a pat on the hood and a thank you :wink: . I don't do that with any of my cars.

Those tractors are not subject to electrical and computer problems like today's vehicles are plagued with.
 
Joined
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Your question sorta has no answer. Machinery can be repaired and rebuilt basically
as long as somebody spends the time and money to do it.
As working tools ( as in money makers ) they get to the point of diminishing returns, obsoleted
by features and the productivity of newer equipment.
As a very general number...very general....lots of smaller to mid-sized AG tractors running
around with 7000 to 10000 hours on them.
Dave
 

RSIno1

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I have my dad's John Deere Model H from before WWII. He bought it to keep the road/driveway smooth and to restore but passed away before it was done. When I was a kid visiting my great aunt/uncle I remember a Fordson tractor in their barn. My dad said it had been a real POS always breaking down and hard to find parts for - even though they were less than 50 miles from the factory.
 

Selena

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A long way from heaven and far too close to Chicag
With reasonable maintenance and responsible operators I daresay a good machine will outlast it's owner. My Gramps bought Dad's 4020 in 1963, within it's power range it's a work horse. My great-grandfather bought the D-4 Cat sometime in the early 50's. As the operator tells me on the occasions it is used... It will do anything a brand new D-8 will do it just takes it a little longer.
 
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I know of at least 4 other working Ford 8N's within a five mile radius of my place. Parts for my tractors are still readily available. Why? Because if you keep these old tractors well maintained they will last. But there are just certain parts that will just wear out over 60 years. On my MF202, I had a fan blade self eject and tear up my radiator. On removing the radiator, I found that the water pump shaft had a wobble to it causing the fan to go out of balance and lose a blade. I put a new water pump on it and a new radiator and was back in business.

On my Ford 8N, the three point lift quit working on it. I had to remove the top cover off the rear end. I found that a dowel pin that rides on an adjustable radiused piece had finally worn through and broke in half. So for the price of a small dowel pin, I got it back to normal.

Those are the only actual repairs I have made on these tractors. Oh, I did buy a new seat for the Massey Ferguson simply because the make newer more comfortable seats now.

As far as my cars, when they go down, they get towed to a repair shop. As far as how long a new tractor will last, I kind of equate them to how long a new car will last now. Just too many things to go wrong on them.
 

bobski

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my 64 ford 4000 is still going.
tires will go first, hard use will kill hydraulic lines or tranny/pto gears.
changed a carb once...but later found out it wasn't the carb, so I got a spare.
all these new ones are expensive and have a lot of features, but you pay for it and must keep it up.
im old school because I can afford to be. farmers who depend on equipment must have the best and reliable tools, and tend to buy accordingly.
youd call me a gentleman farmer. I just cut hay, jerk out, and haul stuff.
tractors have impliments.
basics usually involve a bush hog, blade, rake, and pole digger.
more expensive tractors have buckets or back hoes.
tractors with buckets will wear out front axle bushings faster than normal.
tractors are in catagories by horsepower. for example, 20 to 49, 50 to 65, 65 to 85, 85 and up.
mine is 55hp. most tractors need 55 as a minimum to bail hay and rip topsoil.
80 and up is usually used to till.
most now are diesel. mine is gas.
new ones are comfortable. old ones require a kidney belt as you bounce around on a leaf spring seat. hit a gopher hole and itll give you whiplash. tell me how I know.
new ones have power steering. old ones don't.
you have 2 basic designs for wheels. orchard tractors with 4 wheels and the classic row tractor with 2 in the middle shaped like a tilled 'v' row of dirt.
old ones are 6volt, new ones a 12. most 6's are converted to 12.

I can go on for 100 pages but will stop there.
btw....ford in my opinion is the (remington) of tractors. the cheapest and most common were farm-all's (the mossberg of tractors). new holland bought up ford, thus the blue and white colors of new new hollands. old new hollands are red and yellow.
old fords were the backbone of American ag. 2n, 8n, 601, 2000, 4000 series were and still are, prized for being diehards. parts are still available and reasonable.
whats funny is a new kabuta has 3 times the power as one of the old fords!

new john deers are overrated.

japan has cornered a good share of ag market.

stay away from computer run tractors. if your motherboard goes out, tractor stops and a (tech) must come and fix it. imagine the walk home in a 1000 acre field.
mobuck will tell you all about this feature im sure.
 

kramden

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caryc said:
How long anything will last is simply relevant to how well it is maintained. I have two tractors. One is a Ford 8N and the other is a Massey Ferguson 202. Both tractors are well over 60 years old and run very well. They're not just toys, both of them get used for working my five acres and the dirt roads leading up to them. I take very good care of these tractors. If I had to do every thing by hand that these tractors have done for me, I would have worked myself to death years ago. Those tractors were built to last and they are doing just that. It may sound strange to you but every time I pull one of them in to park after doing some work with it, I give it a pat on the hood and a thank you :wink: . I don't do that with any of my cars.

Those tractors are not subject to electrical and computer problems like today's vehicles are plagued with.
Loved the old Fords. I had a 9N for 25 years. What a great old tractor. Sold it in 2005 and as far as I know it's still going.
 
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RSIno1 said:
I have my dad's John Deere Model H from before WWII.

Take care of that old girl. Forty years ago I was given one (can't recall its vintage) by the son of its original owner. It hadn't been used for many years, but ran pretty well, considering. I put new valves and rings in it and shimmed the rod bearings and it ran quite well. This encouraged me to "restore" it so I tore all the sheet metal off -- it had the rear fenders --, cleaned everything up, and repainted the entire thing. Took it to antique tractor shows and "pulled" it in the appropriate class. Lotsa fun. It came with a sickle-bar mower, and I loaned the rig to a friend to mow his small pasture. When I had to move and lost a place to keep it, I gave it to that friend. I don't know if he still has it. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
 

Mobuck

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You asked about how long a new current model will last. I'm not sure about the newer computer controlled engines but pre-computer diesel engines have at least 10,000 hour life expectancy. Sadly, most don't come close to that due to poor maintenance, overloading, type of use, and a number of other factors. The newer models with more widgets and gadgets will most certainly have failures in those systems that the older mechanical controlled machines won't.
I see some late 70's/early 80's John Deere mid-sized (100-150 horsepower) showing up on the market with over 10K hours on the clock. Probably on their 2nd (maybe 3rd) engine & transmission depending on how hard they were pulled in their earlier years. My 1980 4440 has almost 8400 hours and as far as I know, has not had any transmission work done. It had a complete engine overhaul when I traded for it in 1995 but only because the operator failed to properly tighten the engine oil drain plug after an oil change and the plug came out. Knock on wood, it's as good as the moderate sized operation needs--doesn't burn oil, starts great, everything except a couple of lights work properly(I don't do much after dark farming so fixing lights is a low priority).
A new current model tractor should last a middle aged, mid-sized farming operation, farmer until he's too old to be driving a tractor. I have Dad's 1951 FORD 8-N that he bought used in 1958 and Son just spent quite a bit of money making it fully operational again after I'd left it sitting in the barn for 1 1/2 years. I'm still using the first new tractor we ever owned (1967 FORD 4000) for raking, spraying, and light loader work. It has well over 10,000 hours but has had one major engine overhaul around 1975 after storm damage filled the engine with water.
 

contender

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Well, I own a Ford 2N & a JD 950. Most of my work is light duty compared to a real farmer.

As noted,, how a tractor is maintained will be the life blood of them. The older ones,, were built a lot more durable & forgiving. But they also have drawbacks,, see bobski's post.)

I doubt I'd buy a new tractor at all.

I'd shop for a good used or recently overhauled one if I were looking.
 

Muley Gil

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Southwest VA USA
I have a 1949 Ford 8N. I have a bush hog, a scraper blade, a box blade and a breaking plow for it. I've hauled a 4'x8' farm trailer, loaded with brush, with it. I live on 20 hilly acres in the Blue Ridge mountains and the old 8N will do 90% of what I need it to do. I'd love to have a newer 4x4 Kubota with a bucket, a post driver and an auger. The biggest disadvantage is that the 8N doesn't have live hydraulics.
 

Mobuck

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Just a bit of advice for those using the older tractors with a "brush hog": If you aren't already doing so--ALWAYS use an "over running clutch" on the PTO.
When we were buying cheap, rough land in the mid-late 60's ( I mean really cheap as in $18-25/acre), there were lots of thorn trees to deal with. We put a set of steel wheels on the old H Farmall and used it to pull a 5' brush hog. One day Dad was working on a hillside above a washout and when he tried to slow down/stop, the spinning brush hog being tied to the transmission continued to turn the rear tires pushing Dad, tractor, and brush hog over the edge. It didn't tip over and nothing got broken but that was one of the few times I remember seeing Dad spooked.
It seems like every couple of years, someone has an accident caused by a similar event. Most often it's an acreage person with an older tractor who gets shoved into a ditch or pond simply because no one had warned them.
 
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Mobuck said:
Just a bit of advice for those using the older tractors with a "brush hog": If you aren't already doing so--ALWAYS use an "over running clutch" on the PTO.
When we were buying cheap, rough land in the mid-late 60's ( I mean really cheap as in $18-25/acre), there were lots of thorn trees to deal with. We put a set of steel wheels on the old H Farmall and used it to pull a 5' brush hog. One day Dad was working on a hillside above a washout and when he tried to slow down/stop, the spinning brush hog being tied to the transmission continued to turn the rear tires pushing Dad, tractor, and brush hog over the edge. It didn't tip over and nothing got broken but that was one of the few times I remember seeing Dad spooked.
It seems like every couple of years, someone has an accident caused by a similar event. Most often it's an acreage person with an older tractor who gets shoved into a ditch or pond simply because no one had warned them.

It's always a bad feeling when your brain and body wants to slow down and it doesn't happen like it's
supposed to!
Direct PTO's on tractors, brake line failures on old cars with single master cylinders. Stuck throttle on a 750cc Yamaha
dirt tracker headed into 3 at the old Ionia state fair grounds in Michigan, ( ugly ending ).....broken front brake cable on a 750 Kaw triple
drag bike....
I've somehow survived that "OH &*#@ " moment plenty of times, and while they're all different, they're all the same.
Dave
 

krw

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The beauty of a diesel engine was, if the engine would turn over, the mechanical fuel pump would pressurize the diesel it would start. But now with the electronics tractors are like new vehicles. When they dont start you have to call the dealer. These new tractors cost too much and cost too much to maintain. You dont just poor any ole hydraulic fluid in new tractors
 
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Oregon City, Oregon
Tractors, or other vehicles of burden, as we called them in heavy industry, were our oldest vehicles. They seemed to last forever. The weak links...hoses, control valves, hydraulic components, or other wear items, required periodic replacement as expected, but the center of it all, the frame, the engine, the transmission, the running gear, just kept on truckin'.

Rotating components that spun at very slow speeds as compared to highway vehicles, as long as we spun them occasionally to keep the rust out, had a tremendous service life. The closer we got to PTO's, winches etc., on these vehicles, is where routine maintenance had to be kept up or failure would be expected. In other words the faster the components spun, the less service life could be expected.

How long do they last? I was at my mill nearly 40 years. There were burden vehicles when I retired, that were still in use, that were being used when I started working there.

There are hundreds of truck farms or other hobby farms in my area still relying on their vintage tractors every day.

Also in my area, a feather in their cap, are the farmers that run their antique tractors in the local summertime parades. There are more of these beautiful beasts than many people could imagine.
 

tinman

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As with (most) firearms, if you take care of them, they can last lifetime(s).
Here is a video tour of a family farm in Massachusetts. It has been in this same family for 300 years and has a LOT of “older” tractors.....most of which are used on a regular basis. They also have some really old tractors that they use for show and tell.

https://youtu.be/kuzehEUg7b8
 

ndcowboy

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An old 4020 John Deere will outlast anything that comes across the line today. Too much computerized stuff on the new tractors. Think about how often a person updates his computer used inside his home - now put computer chips in an outdoor environment with dust and dirt and moisture.
The old diesels can go forever. The new stuff, not so much.
 

bobski

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I hang out on a few old websites and learn A LOT.
guys never answer with stupid answers. every issue I had, was answered and it worked.
go here.......
http://www.tractorhouse.com.
http://www.yesterdaystractors.com
http://www.georgebradish.com

go ford and have fun!
 

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