In The Garage

Why won’t my tractor start?

How did the farmer find his missing cow? He tractor down.


As promised, I am writing to tell you of what my daughter and I found while diagnosing my 1964 Ford 2000 tractor on Father’s Day. It wouldn’t start. I tried starting it with the choke in. I tired starting it with the choke out. I tried starting it until the battery died and had to be recharged. I even tried cursing it up one side and down the other. Nothing I did would even make Blue (as my tractor is so affectionately known by) even attempt to turn over on its own.

spark plugs on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

My daughter and I sat down on the right side of the tractor and began the task of diagnosing the tractor. I told her that we will start with the ignition system as it has given my problems in the past. The ignition systems on these old tractors are really quite simple. You will not find anything like them in today’s modern engines. So, like any good mechanic, we decided to work from one end of the system and work our way back until we found the problem.

removing the spark plug on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

We pulled the wire off of the first spark plug and removed it to check for signs of fouling or burning.

PRO TIP: Unless you mark the wires and the position on the distributor cap, it is best to leave the rest of the wires on if possible. Putting the wires back on it the wrong order can cause the pistons of the engine to fire out of order and will cause the engine to not run correctly, or perhaps even damage it.

spark plug

Now that the spark plug was out, we took at look at it. It didn’t look damaged, nor was it too junked up to be firing, so I began to suspect that the problem was actually electrical in nature. I had my daughter hop up on the driver’s seat for the next step.

screwdriver stuck in s spark plug wire

I stuck a screwdriver into the boot of the plug wire that we had taken off of the spark plug. I held the shaft of the screwdriver near a piece of exposed metal on the body of the tractor. While making sure to grip the screwdriver by the handle and not the metal, I asked my daughter to turn the key and hit the starter. Hmm… no spark. There should have been a spark jump from the screwdriver to the metal of the tractor frame. This tells me that no electricity is getting to the spark plugs. It is time to dig a little deeper.

distributor on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

If you follow the spark plug wires back, they will lead you to a distributor. This is what distributes the power going to the spark plugs. I checked the outside of the cap for any visible damage and finding none, decided to proceed with removing it by simply flipping the two little blue clasps on it. (you can see one of them pictured above) I know I have said it once, but I will say it again, save yourself some headache from having to go look up a distributor wiring diagram and leave the wires hooked up if you can when removing the distributor cap.

rotor bug on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

Underneath we saw the black rotor bug. The rotor bug spins around in a circle and delivers power to the 4 (or 6 or 8) connection points on the inside of the distributor cap one at a time. These connection points are what the spark plug wires are hooked up to. We inspected the rotor bug for signs of corrosion and then removed it and the cap covering the internals of the distributor.

distributor on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

Once again, I had my daughter hit the starter so I could watch the points and see if there was a spark passing between the points when the arm opened and closed as the distributor turned. Hmm… something it odd here. The arm holding the points is not moving back and forth as the distributor turns. Therefore, the points are never touching together to let electricity pass between them. It appears something has moved out of place here.

points on a 1964 Ford 2000 tractor

Well, this should be an easy fix. I had my daughter bump the starter until the distributor stopped at the flattest point on the shaft. I then loosened the 2 screws holding the arm into place and let the points rest upon each other. I then tightened the screws down and put everything back together in the reverse order that I had taken it apart.

A few moments later we turned the key, hit the ignition and we had a running tractor! Well, for a little bit at least… Great! Now it sounds like it may need some carburetor adjustments. It will start now. It just won’t STAY running. More on that in the future.

Like and share this so I know you guys are out there!

2 thoughts on “Why won’t my tractor start?

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